31 October 2017

Gambia: Music Promoter of Prominence Appointed Goodwill Ambassador

The Ministry of Youth and sport, in appreciation and recognition of his outstanding contribution and exemplary commitment and involvement in Youth Development and Empowerment, has decided to appoint Mr. Oko Drammeh, as a Goodwill Ambassador plenipotentiary.

In this regard the task of Mr. Drammeh will include but not limited to the following supporting the vision and mission of the ministry, strengthening the outreach and impact in societies both local and international and promoting spor.,lkt for all and any other thing(s) true to your knowledge and conviction that it will promote youth development.

Mr. Dawda Ceesay, PS at the Ministry of Youth and Sport, congratulated Mr. Drammeh on behalf of his Ministry, on his deserved appointment and thanked him for accepting and taking up the responsibility. Mr Ceesay assured Mr. Drammeh of a fruitful and a high and esteemed consideration.

Brief Biography of Mr. M. Oko Drammeh

According to the Los Angeles Times article, Oko Drammeh has produced more concerts and festivals of African musicians, than anyone else in the world.

He has been a phenomenal contributor to the growth and promotion of African music. A disk jockey, producer and ethnomusicologist, Oko is well known for putting on concerts all over the world, the biggest being the annual African Music Festival that attracted over 10,000 attendees.

Oko is largely responsible for the increased popularity of African music worldwide and has continued to promote African music and its artists through festivals, symposiums, concerts, and radio and TV programs. Oko was born in the Gambia. He grew up working as a disk jockey for radio stations, nightclubs and social events. Later, he became the producer and promotions manager of a Gambian band called Infang Bondi, through which he learned more about the Gambian music scene. In 1981, he moved to Holland to join his family. While in Europe, he realized that Ifang Bondi and African music in general, was unique and could compete with sounds from other parts of the world.

This led him to launch the African Music festival in 1983. Drammeh rightly predicted that there would be an increase interest in African music across the world and he wanted to be on the frontline in offering it a platform that made African music and its artists, visible to the world. The festival gained popularity in Europe by drawing more than ten thousand people annually and becoming one of the world's largest African music events, featuring musicians, drummers and dancers from all over Africa. Most of the major names in African music including Miriam Makeba, Osibisa, Franco, Papa Wemba, Angelique Kidjo, Mory Kante, Lucky Dube, and a host of others, have graced the festivals' stages. The festival became one of Netherlands' biggest tourist attractions, gaining the support of the Dutch Ministry of Culture and the City of Delft. Consequently, Drammeh was handed numerous awards by Governments and the City of Delftin Hollan. The festival then spread to Amsterdam under the title African Feeling Concert Series, which exhibited African artists who had made the European and American charts. The concerts were held at Paradiso Rock concert hall in Amsterdam, featuring African's greats including Salif Keita, Jaliba kuyateh, Manu Dibango and Youssou Ndour.

Due to the increased popularity, the festival made its debut in America in 1997 at the John Anson Ford Theatre in Hollywood California, and was received wonderfully. Drammeh was awarded a certificate of honour by the senate of California for bringing the African Music festival to America. Oko Drammeh took the festival farther by introducing the festival in the Nanning Music festival of China. After the success of the Nanning Festival, Drammeh was called to organize a Convention of Music and Arts in Beijing with aim of educating the Chinese people on organizing festivals, fashionable pop events and any other cultural event. During his visit to China, Drammeh toured the country and established partnerships with the Chinese in 2009. In the same year, the Soto Koto Band was invited to Japan to inaugurate the city of Kyoto as the world's green city. The band also performed in two concerts in Tokyo. In a search for the roots of Reggea, Calypso and Afro-Cuban music, Drammeh also want on an African cultural tour in the Caribbean Islands in Jamaica, Cuba, Antigue, Martinique, Dominica, Trinidad and Tobago and the Bahamas.

Drammeh went on to bring in African troubadours also known as griots, from West Africa, on a US tour.

He dubbed their concerts the "Night of the Griots," a musical and cultural experience highlighting the history and poetic story telling of a traditional musician and singer and his 21 string kora instrument. It was an experience of acoustic kora music and singing in which griots and the traditional sound of kora music, exposed authentic and traditional Mandingo music to American audiences, creating a platform for cultural exchange between the USA and West Africa.

After years of organizing hundreds of concerts and festivals, the world music deejay and festival promoter founded the Soto Koto Concert Management in 2000, which is a Company that provides competent technical support services to artists and event organisers. His Hollywood-based music Company was named in memory of Drammeh's late brother, who had a football club called Soto Koto Vous. Drammeh later formed the famous Soto Koto Band that entailed a group of preeminent musicians from all over the world, and unified a diverse range of modern and ancient musical influences. The band combined the rhythms of Africa, the music sensibility of modern dance music and the intensity of big band jazz. The Soto Koto band collaborated with West African vocalist Abdel Kabirr, to record an album titled "Gumbay Dance." Thereafter, the band worked together with renowned Gambian vocalist Paps Touray, to record two albums: "The Soto Koto Band" and "Mandingo Beat." The Soto Koto Band, went on to work with Gambian kora maestro, Jaliba Kuyateh, to record 'Kora Dance." While in Hollywood, Drammeh also worked as a music producer for Higher Octave Music, whose music is distributed by Virgin Music Records in the USA and by EMI records worldwide.

In addition to producing several albums for the Soto Koto Band, Drammeh has also produced documentaries on African Music and culture for the BBC, written articles for Downbeat Magazine and has organized a large number of festivals, concerts, symposiums and other cultural exhibitions. Drammeh also gave a lecture series while in Austin, Texas and was awarded an honorary doctorate degree of arts from the University of Texas. In his continuous quest to promote African music, Drammeh has contributed largely to the African creative sector, especially in his native Gambia. In 2000, he was elected the public relations officer of the Gambia Music Union and re-elected in 2010. When the Union of Gambian Musicians (MUSIGAM) was formed in 2008, Oko Drammeh was elected Public Relations Officer (PRO). He played a crucial role in the formation of the Gambia Copyright Office where he served as the secretary until 2012. That same year, Drammeh was elected as the Secretary General of the newly inaugurated Royalty Collecting Society of Gambia. He is currently serving in the board of directors as the PRO of the Arterial Network of the Gambia that is an Africa-wide network of organizations, festivals, Companies and individual artists working in the creative and cultural arts sector across Africa.

Mr. Drammeh is an artistic consultant at the Centre Cultural Blaise Senghor in Dakar, Senegal. The centre is a performing arts school specialized in teaching drama, theatre film, comedy and classical dance. He believes that there is great potential in the African arts sector and is determined to promote the arts and educated artists. Due to his passion for African music and the great strides he has taken to put African music on the map throughout his career, Oko Drammeh has earned the respectable position he holds in the music industry around the world as a Music promoter of prominence. As in Music, So in Life.

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